Anyone who has suffered an illness or injury will look forward to proclaiming that they have “recovered” once their symptoms have dissipated. We love considering ourselves to be recovered, to have arrived at the much-desired endpoint after overcoming an affliction.
However, when it comes to substance use recovery, there is some debate about which term works best. Are we “recovered” once we attain sobriety and complete a treatment program? Are we “in recovery,” or are we in a perpetual state of recovering? Let’s see if we can get some clarity on these various descriptors of our status post-treatment.
What is long-term recovery?
If we have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD), it’s best to not think in terms of being in recovery or having recovered. Just as with any other chronic, relapsing disease, an SUD can potentially flare up again. For this reason, most recovery specialists say that someone in substance use recovery is never fully recovered.
The early days of SUD recovery are just that. After completing the detox and treatment process, we’re officially in recovery. This means that we have begun living a new life in sobriety. It’s a process that requires diligence, commitment and the help of our higher power.
Long-term recovery is the phrase used to describe a state of ongoing, sustained sobriety. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, long-term recovery refers to the individual “overcoming both physical and psychological dependence to a psychoactive drug while making a commitment to sobriety.” The primary aim of entering treatment and pushing through early recovery is to achieve a long-term recovery.
How to maintain recovery
With the knowledge that recovery can be upended, at least temporarily, by a relapse, the focus in long-term recovery centers on actions that help us maintain sobriety. To help us in this endeavor, experts in the recovery field have provided us with a wide range of coping skills and relapse prevention strategies.
Consider these five tips for helping you maintain recovery:
- Practice Your Recovery Skills: During treatment, you were likely introduced to cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. These two evidence-based therapies help reduce thought distortions and unhealthy responses to stress and other triggers, while learning to implement new healthy thought and behavior patterns. These techniques are an integral part of your recovery journey.
- Guard Your Sobriety: After achieving sobriety, you’ll need to protect it like the treasure that it is. This can involve being vigilant to anything or anyone that can threaten your recovery. Avoid known triggers like your life depended on it (because it does), and forgo any former acquaintances from the substance use days.
- Solidify Your Sober Support System: No man is an island when it comes to achieving a long-term recovery. With a humble heart, understand the need for a strong sober support network. Lean on your 12 Step community, support groups, your counselor, online support sources, friends, and family members who fully support your recovery efforts.
- Tend to Your Health: Just like crops need a healthy terrain to grow, so does your mind and body. By investing in your health, you can improve your overall wellness and quality of life in recovery. Create a healthy lifestyle with nutritious dietary choices, regular exercise, getting enough quality sleep, and managing stress with relaxation techniques.
- Set Some Goals: While it is well known that we succeed in recovery “one day at a time,” recovery momentum can also be forward-focused. By setting some aspirations and goals, and then achieving them, it can help build self-confidence and fuel a sense of purpose.
While it’s best to refrain from using the term recovered when describing our journey, we can proudly proclaim our commitment to sobriety and the quest to achieve a lasting, long-term recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.